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​​​by Curtis Gillespie​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​

​When it became clear that the pandemic would stretch the resources of social and cultural agencies for another year, EPCOR’s Heart + Soul Fund stepped up again. But supporting our communities means more than just writing cheques.

Being part of a community means caring for one another not just when times are good but showing up for real when things take a turn for the worse. Through its Community Investment program, EPCOR has long been supporting many aspects of the communities in which it operates. But then came COVID.
Heart + Soul Fund recipient, GeriActors Theatre Company
The pandemic put such an added strain on so many levels of society that EPCOR realized it was a moment of both responsibility and opportunity to help make a difference.

The result was the Heart + Soul Fund, which EPCOR created in 2020, and continued again in 2021, to assist social serving organizations meet the growing demand for services; and help ensure local artists and culture organizations could continue creating inspiring and uplifting works of art.​

“We nearly tripled our community support the first year of the pandemic,” says Gillian Adams, Senior Manager of Marketing and Community Investments with EPCOR. “We received so much feedback from grant recipients that they would not have made it without our help.”
​Of course, the Heart + Soul Fund (as well as the Community Investment program) may provide much-needed funding, but it’s about more than the cash. Liz O’Neill is the Executive Director of Boys & Girls Clubs Big Brothers Big Sisters (BGCBigs) and has been with the organization since 1979. BGCBigs is about making sure children and youth have mentors in their lives to help them mature into adulthood. O’Neill has also seen Edmonton mature, from a small city to the dynamic and complex community it is today.​

​EPCOR has grown along with it. “It’s not just a company that writes a cheque,” says O’Neill. “It’s a place that takes its assets and its networks and its people in its family, and it shares them with our family. We’re trying to mobilize good people to be there for kids, just as EPCOR is mobilizing good people to be there for the organization.” 

A good example of reciprocal benefits is the BGCBigs mentorship program, in which many EPCOR employees act as mentors to children, bringing them to various workplaces once a week where they get help with their homework, have access to a one-to-one mentor, maybe have some recreational down time. The added benefit is that it gives numerous EPCOR employees the chance to broaden their worlds through cultural and sociological insight.
​To Liz O’Neill, it’s about a company knowing the DNA of its community. She recalls when BGCBigs, which has been supported through both the Community Investment program and the Heart + Soul Fund, was
delivering holiday gifts back in December. With 3,300 families on the delivery list, there was no way for them to do it alone. They reached out to EPCOR for help and EPCOR supplied the staff and trucks to make it happen. 

“EPCOR really works to identify what help might look like and then it thinks of how it can use its assets to make it possible. They make it about human beings. And they don’t respond because it’s the nice thing to do, they respond because it’s the right thing to do.”

Liz O’Neill, Executive ​Director of BGCBigs

​Erica Angus and Valerie O’Brien were also looking for EPCOR to do the right thing when they reached out in 2020. Angus is Executive Director of Theatre Collingwood, and O’Brien the Business Development Manager. EPCOR supplies power to Collingwood, a city of 22,000 on the shores of Georgian Bay, about two hours’ drive north of Toronto. Angus has been with the theatre a decade now and O’Brien developed her passion
for the arts growing up in Edmonton while attending shows at the Citadel and the Jubilee Auditorium.

Running a theatre is hard enough during the good times. When the pandemic hit, it meant going from 60 to 0 in the blink of an eye, not just for Theatre Collingwood, but for most of the performing arts in Canada. The question Theatre Collingwood asked itself was the same one thousands of other creative enterprises had on their minds:

How are we going to survive this?

​The Porchside Festival was one idea. Collingwood is blessed to have a number of historic homes that are a source of community pride. The company put together a plan to collaborate with many of their patrons and supporters to stage plays on grand home porches and have the audience come along and bring their own chair to set up on lawns.

“It was wonderful,” says Angus. “When people left a play they were floating, they were so happy to be able to come together as a community, but feel safe, be outside and experience a play or a concert.”

But the financial struggle was perilous without the ability to stage a regular run of ten or twelve plays a year. Angus and O’Brien reached out to EPCOR, knowing how central the arts are to community and how committed EPCOR is to supporting its communities. ​

“We just made the case to EPCOR that, yes, it’s vital to support our hospitals because we have to take care of our physical health,” says Angus. “But it’s also vital to keep our minds and souls fortified. EPCOR was just so receptive to helping us to continue to connect and to fuel the soul.”

Because Theatre Collingwood could not mount a normal production schedule, the conversation with EPCOR revolved around how to adapt to the new reality of smaller-scale and online events. 

“They truly invested in the Heart + Soul of the community,” says O’Brien. People need to feel the heart and soul of their community beating strongly, adds Angus. “EPCOR helped create that feeling,” she says​​.​
Adams believes the Heart + Soul message is so powerful because, she says, “It captured the spirit of what we wanted it to accomplish. We are supporting the heart and soul of their community, of our community.” A third year of Heart + Soul funding has recently been approved. “It makes me happy to be able to close each partnership saying, ‘With love from EPCOR.’ Because it’s true.”

Enter content here.

We brought the heart.​
You brought the soul.

View all the artistic and charitable organizations who step up and do what they do best: create an incredible quality of life and provide a lifeline to those that need it most.

Check out all our Heart + Soul grant recipients​.
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